Primate Cinema: Apes as Family is an intriguing new art installation currently being shown in the UK. Half of it represents a human's attempt to make a movie specifically for chimps... while the other half shows how chimpanzees react to it.
Los Angeles based artist Rachel Mayeri is behind the dual-screen installation, which juxtaposes her specially made 22-minute primate drama with reactions from chimps in the Edinburgh zoo. You can see a video up top that details Mayeri's project. Coming hot on the heels of the first chimp-geared advertising campaign, Primate Cinema: Apes as Family is the first piece of inter-species entertainment.
On her website, Mayeri explains the making of the film for chimps, as well as their reactions to it:
The film follows the young female protagonist as she meets and befriends a foreign group of chimpanzees – much as female chimpanzees actually do in the wild (think Wizard of Oz for chimps). Designed to appeal to a primate audience, it depicts social dramas surrounding status, territory, sex and food. The chimpanzees in the film are played by actors in chimp costumes, one of which is especially realistic, through animatronic puppetry.
Analysis of the chimpanzees' responses to different types of media is inconclusive, though it seems that females prefer television more than males. Several chimps were interested in human actors in chimp suits having sex. Some chimps were lured to the television by Teletubbies and kettle drums. A male responded to watching another chimp's "display behavior" by displaying himself – hooting and hitting the monitors. Chimps in zoos vary a lot in their personalities as well as in their life histories: some were raised by other chimps in the wild, some grew up in zoos, still others were raised by humans in labs. As with humans, it would be difficult to appeal to the entire species with one film.
The installation just finished up its run at Liverpool's TAO Gallery, and it will next be shown as a solo exhibition at London's Arts Catalyst from October 19 to November 13, 2011.